Head Monk Found Dead

Author: Charles Willgren
Date Published: 09/19/2007

”Father Benedict” Dead From Apparent Suicide

Samuel Alexander Greene, Jr., known as Father Benedict and the founder of the Christ of the Hills Monastery, was reported dead on Monday morning, September 17. The monastery, known for its hilltop location southeast of Blanco on County Road 103, was at one time a bustling religious organization affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church.

Charges and the convictions in 1999 of indecency with a child, changed the monastery, leading to the departure of the novices (young boys who have entered the religious order but have not yet taken final vows) and nuns who once lived there. Samuel Greene and Jonathan Irving Hitt, also known as Father Jeremiah, were convicted in the 1999 case.

In July of 2006, agents from the District Attorney’s Office raided the monastery’s buildings, breaking locks and overturning containers in the search of evidence. The Myrrh Weeping Icon of the Virgin Mary was seized by the office, as it was allegedly used to defraud the visitors who came from around the country to stop at the hilltop.

Five monks, including Greene and Hitt, were charged soon afterward. Greene was living at the monastery, after being released on a highly conditioned personal recognizance bond, at the time of his death. The founding monk’s health was poor and he was seen often on television news last year in a wheelchair and on an oxygen breather.

Sheriff Bill Elsbury said that the death was reported as a suicide but the Sheriff Office’s approached it as an unattended death.

”We go out, take a look, collect evidence, and talk to people,” Sheriff Elsbury reported. The final ruling on the cause of death will come after the Travis County Medical Examiner performs an autopsy and toxicology report; the Sheriffs Office, Justice of the Peace Carter, and Medical Examiner will compare notes before the information is released, and, as Sheriff Elsbury said, ”We’ll see.”

Greene was facing a serious court situation this week, according to Elsbury. Several of Greene’s prior cases received deferred adjudication. A deferred adjudication means that the defendant plead guilty or no contest and the court placed the individual on probation, sometimes with additional conditions. When the probation period ends and the defendant had complied with the court’s orders, the case would be dismissed and a conviction would not be recorded.

Greene had allegedly violated the court’s orders and, according to Sheriff Elsbury, was expected to be sentenced in a court hearing later this week.

”It’s tragic to think anyone would take their own life under any circumstance,” Sheriff Elsbury said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

”We’ve spent a lot of time on it (the case),” Elsbury said. ”The DA’s office has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the investigation and putting this together…. They do a tremendous job.”

The district attorney’s office did not respond to calls in time for publication.